Six simple tricks to improve your eating habits in 2022 and beyond

After a month of overeating, in January it can be tempting to eat sugar, carbs, or alcohol, or set yourself up for a major weight loss challenge. It’s a lofty goal (maybe necessary), but you may feel as if you’re dragging yourself up a steep hill, even when there’s no raging pandemic in the background. Growing research shows that looking at how and why we eat is just as important as what we eat when it comes to making meaningful, long-term change.

Instead of beating yourself up with a fun-filled Christmas, why not think of January as a month to reset your relationship with food?

Food psychologist Jane Ogden notes that in the past two years, food has come to mean something different to many of us. In some ways [it] It has played an even more important role in people’s lives because we try to manage our emotions and take care of ourselves in the midst of an epidemic,” says Ogden, professor of health psychology at the University of Surrey and author of The Psychology of Dieting.

“Food has always been a part of emotional regulation, but because we are restricted in so many different ways, food has moved up the ladder even further.

She says “January’s job” is to get you to re-evaluate your eating habits. But while some years may involve the goal of losing weight, this new year may be the time to “reset the role that food plays in your life and try to bring it back to being just a part of what you do in your day; more about sustenance or hunger.”

So, how do you approach your January food reset?

1. Don’t Diet – Make Adjustments

Nutritionist Sam Rice, a Telegraph columnist and author of The Midlife Method, recommends coming up with a set of eating strategies tailored just for you. “Look at the area you want to treat and come up with a nutritional strategy for that specific thing,” says Rice. “So if you’re snacking, you might say, ‘I’m not going to stop snacking completely, but I will focus on eating only two snacks a day when I know my energy is at its lowest, and I’ll have good fiber-rich snacks available to me.'”

A targeted approach like this can be more beneficial than trying to make a whole bunch of changes that would be hard to keep. “The problem is, if you veer off course afterward, there’s a tendency to throw in the towel and say, OK, you got it wrong, so you failed,” says Rice.

She says it’s all about adjustments, not wholesale change. “You can make changes relatively easily in your lifestyle. Instead of saying I’m going on a keto diet and doing a dry January, which is too much to stick to for an entire month, you can just say OK, I’m actually going to focus on eating a really good breakfast and cutting out snacks “.

2. Plan your meals

Professor Ogden says food that has been planned tends to be healthier than food eaten without much thought. “It is about planning and organizing what you will eat during the day rather than relying on yourself to make spontaneous, bad decisions. Build those better routines into order, and remove temptation.”

A good place to start might be a cookie tin and storage cupboard repair. “One of the reasons we eat is because the food is there. Removing those triggers, and not bringing things you don’t want to eat at home, gives you the opportunity [to eat well]. Buy healthy food and then whatever is available to you.”

Ogden says it’s the simplest way to avoid getting into the “denial and binge cycle” that makes you feel guilty every time you eat chocolate or chips.

Just as the best exercise option is one we’re likely to enjoy, Rice especially wants us to root out the healthy stuff we “really love.” “When you do your weekly shopping, just think, ‘What healthy foods do I really enjoy eating? Try and focus on those for a few weeks. Find some recipes that include those things.'”

3. Get your first meal of the day right

Breakfast tends to go out the window at this time of year — a loss for structure and the unwritten rule that it’s okay to have a trifle for breakfast at Christmas. Experts say getting breakfast back on track can be a helpful way to reset the rest of the day, too. Sam Rice advises not worrying too much about when you eat your first meal of the day—maybe you try intermittent fasting, find that you wake up ravenous or don’t feel hungry until late in the morning. “Whether it’s 6 a.m. or 10 a.m., try to focus on packing as many nutrients into it as possible. [first] “Things you can organize fairly,” says Rice, who recommends porridge, eggs, and oats overnight.

“If you can get off the day on the right track, it usually has a detrimental effect on the rest of the day, whereas if you don’t start off on the right foot, it can go downhill quickly.”

4. Cut off liquid calories

Rice recommends identifying the little things that you can easily eliminate from your daily routine, with drinks being the most common cause of accidental extra calories. “If you tell yourself I’m going to get my liquid water, tea, and coffee with a splash of milk, you’ll make pretty big gains,” says Rice, noting that it’s helpful to tackle “fruit first,” such as alcohol or higher-calorie sodas and milky coffee.

“If you’re someone who has a couple of lattes a day and loves a smoothie from the cooler, you’ll actually find that making this simple change will make a pretty big impact.

“If you do two or three of these things, you may find that there is no great need to go on this cliched diet.”

With alcohol, says Rice, taking a month off can be a great way to give your liver a break, but it’s important to give yourself a realistic goal — trying wet January, for example, and getting four days off a week, if it feels dry January. a lot.

5. Keep a food diary

Nutritionist Jane Clark, founder of Nourish, says writing down what you eat and why can be a helpful way to keep asking yourself these questions.

“Ask yourself the question, before you put anything in your mouth, is this going to fuel me? Do I really want it? Do I really need it? It’s this little question that puts a barrier between eating unnecessary and eating when your body really needs fuel.”

“If I tell someone to ‘keep a food diary’ they think, ‘Oh my God, that’s going to make me feel guilty – it’s not, it’s there to help you see the patterns you fall into and give you the opportunity to change these behaviors. ”

6. How to break the habit of snacking

For Clark, there is a simple but effective scope for dealing with snacks.

If you’re “chomping unnecessarily” while watching TV, she says you probably “don’t focus on food.”

“So put together a great plate of fresh fruit, if you don’t taste it often but know you’re one of those people who always have to snack. Then keep the popcorn for when you’re actually able to taste it.”

She recommends making a nutrient-packed vegetable soup so that you can have a cup by mid-afternoon instead of eating toast or crackers.

This article is updated with the latest advice.

Planning to change your diet in January 2022? Let us know in the comments section below


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